Derry City hoping to end European drought in Lithuania

Declan Divine aware of challenge his side face against FK Riteriai in Vilnius on Tuesday

Derry City boss Declan Devine has dismissed suggestions his side should progress to the next qualifying round of the Europa League when they face FK Riteriai in Lithuania on Tuesday night (kick-off 5pm).

Accepting that Riteriai have clearly struggled in their domestic campaign to date - recording just one victory in their 16 league games - Devine insisted that their poor form was not reflected in the quality of their playing staff.

Commenting before leaving for Vilnius early Monday morning from City of Derry Airport, the Derry manager claimed his players will have to be at their best if they are to progress to the next round.

“I watched quite a few videos of matches they’ve played in,” confirmed the Derry boss.


“They are technically very good footballers and we respect that, but we are travelling out with every intention of winning this game and we will have to be at our best to achieve that,” he added.

“I think the heat will prove to be a major factor but I also believe that we have players who will cause them no shortage of problems and we are all focused and looking forward to the game.

“We’re confident in our ability and we certainly can’t afford an ‘off night’ because the stakes in Europe are so high.”

Victory would net the Foyleside club a healthy £200,000 (€230,000) and while Derry’s recent form in European football has not been spectacular, save the win over Aberystwyth back in 2014, defeats by Midytylland (2017) and Dinamo Minsk (2018) have seen the club exit the tournament at the first hurdle.

“It’s fair to suggest that our recent history has not been great, but we’ve qualified yet again which is a sense of achievement. Now we must attempt to build up a head of steam and progress to the next round.

“A win would certainly lift the club at all levels despite the horrendous times we are experiencing due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Riteriai’s recent game against derby rivals Zalgiris resulted in a draw and Devine took note of their performance, claiming it was “probably their best effort of their season so far.”

Due to a rise in the levels of the pandemic in Lithuania, which had earlier threatened the match, the game will be played behind closed doors with Derry fans unable to travel.

Therefore this year’s European experience will prove to be a far cry from those in the past and Devine agreed that it will be unusual.

“We’re travelling over there one day before the game and flying home immediately after the final whistle. However, our preparation has been good and the character we displayed in the victory over Cork in the Brandywell on Friday has given us all a good confidence boost.

“It’s going to be totally different for us. Normally we would always travel a few days before a European tie. We would usually allow the players out of the hotel to experience the cultures of the places we have visited but that will not be the case on Tuesday.

“However, I’m not overly concerned at the match being played behind closed doors for obvious reasons and, of course, the fact that we have to deal with that scenario in home fixtures is nothing new to us.

“This will be a tough game. We will need to be at our best and there will be no excuses. We’ve got to perform on the night and I’m confident that we have the players who can secure a passage to the next round.”